Bell tolls for Wisconsin man who wins Hemingway lookalike contest

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — On his 68th birthday, a white-bearded Wisconsin man has won the Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, a highlight of Key West’s annual Hemingway Days celebration that ends Sunday.

Gerrit Marshall, a retired television engineer from Madison, prevailed Saturday night at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, a frequent hangout of Ernest Hemingway when he lived in Key West in the 1930s.

“It’s the best birthday I’ve ever had,” said Marshall, whose birthday falls just one day after July 21, Hemingway’s birthday.

In his 11th attempt, Marshall triumphed over nearly 140 other entrants in the contest which featured two preliminary rounds and Saturday’s final.

Competitors in sportswear, mostly mimicking the rugged “Dad” persona Hemingway adopted in his later years, paraded on stage at Sloppy Joe’s before a jury of former winners.

Marshall has stated that he shares several characteristics besides looks with Hemingway, and has written both non-fiction and short fiction.

“Like Hemingway, I love the outdoors; I like to fish a lot,” he said, citing catches of walleye and northern pike in Wisconsin waters, as well as tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys.

He said, however, he couldn’t match the late author’s tally of four marriages.

“I only have one wife, but that doesn’t matter – that’s all I need,” Marshall said.

In addition to the contest and other festival events, the lookalikes are focused on raising scholarship funds for Keys students. Hemingway Look-Alike Society president David Douglas estimated they raised nearly $125,000 at the 2023 festival.

Hemingway Days salutes the vigorous lifestyle and literary legacy of the Nobel Prize-winning author, who wrote enduring classics such as “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “To Have and Not To Have” while living in Key West from 1931 until late 1939.

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